by Speranza

"In the bedroom," Ray said. His voice had a rich echo; his head was deep in the icebox. "In the closet." A moment later, Ray straightened up with a bottle of beer in his hand and looked vaguely around the kitchen—for the bottle opener, Fraser assumed.

Fraser also assumed that Ray was giving him permission to broach the privacy of his bedroom—not simply stating that one could find the right sort of hanger in the bedroom closet but that Fraser was allowed to proceed inside and attempt to obtain the thing. In other words, Ray was giving him unsupervised access to his innermost space, which Fraser could only take as yet another sign of increased intimacy in their burgeoning friendship. For this he was profoundly grateful, and he debated taking a moment to thank Ray for permitting him this familiarity before deciding that it was perhaps best to accept Ray's gesture of trust with quiet dignity.

Fraser opened the bedroom door.

The room was dark, but Fraser found the light switch easily enough. There was no overhead, but there were two lamps in the room: one on the nightstand beside Ray's unmade bed and one on top of the bureau. The play of the soft lamplight on Ray's rumpled white sheets and Navajo quilt made the room seem terrifyingly intimate, and Fraser suddenly felt like an intruder. Fraser averted his eyes from the bed and made a beeline for the closet door, catching a glimpse of himself in the door's full-length mirror before pulling it open.

The smell hit him first—a musky, distinctive Ray-smell of hair gel and leather, sweat and a number of subtle, complimentary colognes. Fraser closed his eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply, and the smell seemed to conjure up his friend.

He opened his eyes. Ray's closet was very full indeed—jam packed, as it were. The clothes were pressed together so tightly that none of them could precisely be said to be hanging; rather, they were awkwardly sandwiched together, pointing every which way. The black arm of a familiar leather blazer stretched out of the compressed shirts and slacks and suits, seeming to reach for him. The shelf above the wooden rod had been piled with precariously balanced objects: two leather satchels of varying sizes, a pair of boxing gloves, a bicycle helmet, a black felt cowboy hat.

In the middle of this sartorial chaos, Fraser spied the empty hanger. It was a particularly good one—not only wooden, but wide and rounded so as to mimic the broad curve of a shoulder. Carefully he extricated the hanger from its position on the rod, hooking it on the closet's inner doorknob while he took off his lanyard and holster and unbuttoned his tunic.

Having slid his jacket neatly onto the hanger's rounded shoulders and draped his lanyard and holster around its hooked metal neck, Fraser stood with the hanger in his hand, suddenly unsure as to what to do next. Was the implication that he should actually hang his uniform jacket here, or just that he would find a suitable hanger for it? Should he take hanger and jacket with him into the living room? Would that seem strange? Would it look as if he were almost fetishistically committed to carrying the thing around with him? On the other hand, surely it was a liberty to presume that he was welcome to share Ray's own personal bedroom closet. Fraser tried to effect a compromise by hanging the hook of the hanger over the top of the closet door itself, but the door was thicker than the hanger's curved metal hook, and so he found himself reduced to his original options: hang the jacket in Ray's closet or bring it with him into the living room.

Not that there was any room in Ray's closet; heck, that ought to decide it for him. Not to mention that it would deny the entire purpose of the special wooden hanger, which was to help his tunic keep its shape and remain unwrinkled. And yet, Fraser felt strangely tempted to shove his jacket onto the rod between Ray's suits and shirts, a flash of scarlet red between the blacks, browns, whites, navys and grays of Ray's clothes. Entirely out of place, just as he was.

Still, it was tempting. Fraser bit his lip. Surely one could reasonably interpret Ray's words, "In the bedroom, in the closet," as a direction—"[Hang your jacket] in the bedroom, in the closet." Before he could change his mind, Fraser reached out, grabbed the shoulder of Ray's black leather blazer, and tugged it to the left to make room for his own hanger, which he thrust deep into the closet, inserting it into the resulting breach. It was just as he thought—the red wool looked entirely out of place in that sea of narrow pinstriped jackets and tight black drainpipe trousers.

A moment later, as if to rebuke him for his hubris, the red serge jacket slipped off the hanger and slithered down to the floor.

Sighing, Fraser squatted and felt around on closet floor. He found the tunic easily, but when he tugged it out, a shoe came with it—or rather, Fraser discovered as he pulled it out of his jacket's armpit, a single black ankle boot.

Fraser held the boot in his hand. Black leather, with a highly pointed toe and a broad, high, sharply angled heel—a Cuban heel, they called it. He held the boot in his hand and stared at it; it conjured up visions from long ago, of phantom men who were urban but not— quite—urbane. Men who seemed to him to be from another planet—a planet where these were "boots." They weren't boots where Benton Fraser came from.

He remembered going to the movies in the late sixties and early seventies, sometimes as often as once a week, because there wasn't very much for a boy of nine, a boy of eleven, a boy of thirteen to do in Tutktoyaktuk and his grandmother believed that the movies were an innocent enough past-time. But his grandmother had been thinking of Gone With The Wind and The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Singing In The Rain and the cinemas had been playing Easy Rider and Mean Streets and Dirty Harry and Midnight Cowboy. His grandmother had somehow come to believe that The French Connection was a musical, and he hadn't had the heart to disillusion her. Instead, he sat in the dark and stared up at the flickering images of James Dean and Steve McQueen, of Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood and Jon Voight—of dangerous men in tight pants and Cuban heels, the most impractical footwear in the world.  Men like Ray.

Fraser ran his thumb against the worn leather, then brought the boot up to his face. He sniffed it, licked it, stifled a moan. He suspected the impracticality was part of the—

"Hey, you get lost or—" Ray was leaning into the room, one hand braced on the doorjamb.

Instantly Fraser was on his feet, his mind racing for an explanation. He realized a second later that he was clutching his tunic in one hand and Ray's boot in the other, a wet stripe still glistening wetly down one side.

He dropped them both. The boot thudded to the floor. The tunic flapped down beside it like a bird landing. Fraser felt his face grow hot.

Ray frowned at this, then came toward him. "Didn't you find the—" Ray stopped and stared down at the boot with a puzzled look. "—hanger," Ray finished, but he was staring quizzically at Fraser now.

"Yes," Fraser blurted; he felt shamed, he'd proved himself entirely unworthy of Ray's act of trust. "Yes, thank you. I was just— I was—just— "

Ray's eyes moved from Fraser's face to the boot and back again before widening suddenly.

"Oh," Ray said, and while he sounded very surprised indeed, there didn't seem to be any revulsion in his voice. "Oh," Ray said again, and now his voice was warm with understanding.

It was too much. Two steps brought him to Ray, and he tangled his hands in the black denim of Ray's jeans, which rode crumpled and low on Ray's smooth pale hips. Another step and he had Ray pressed back against the wall next to the closet. Helplessly he crushed Ray's mouth under his. Ray inhaled sharply and went very still, but the leather-musk-cologne smell of him was intoxicating, and while his body was hard, his mouth was so damned soft. Fraser tried to put everything he felt into the kiss, knowing that he was committed now, that this was his one and only chance. If he'd just destroyed everything between them—well, it was better to be hung for a sheep than for a lamb, and he let his fingertips glide against the smooth skin just above the waistband of Ray's low-riding jeans.

A moment later he felt Ray's long, flat fingers scrabbling at his suspenders, tugging them down over his shoulders. A dizzying sensation of relief rushed through him—Ray had accepted him!—and he slid his hands up under the soft cotton of Ray's t-shirt, feeling the ridged rib cage, the wiry muscles. Ray's mouth was suddenly warm and alive against his, and Fraser opened his own mouth to take in Ray's strong, warm tongue. One of Ray's hands was coolly cupping back of his neck; the other was roughly tugging at his Henley, trying to pull it out of his trousers.

When they broke apart, both were gasping for breath. Ray's face was flushed, and Fraser supposed his must be as well. To his delight, Ray had knotted his fists in Fraser's Henley and was tugging at it with barely-concealed excitement. "Come on," Ray was softly chanting, "come on, come on..." and Fraser realized that Ray was trying to steer him toward the rumpled bed behind them. He was instantly, painfully hard, but he was not capable of letting a moment like this pass without some expression of sentiment, and so he hugged Ray tightly, pulling him close. Ray's arms were instantly up and around him, and Fraser squeezed his eyes shut in order to be completely and totally alive to the moment.

So it was only when he opened his eyes that he saw that Ray's closet had changed.

The wooden rod was still there, and the press of jackets, shirts, and trousers, and the tumble of boots, shoes and sneakers on the three square feet of floor. But now, behind this, were the wooden walls of a cabin, lit with a series of oil lamps as well as by the reflected glow of a fire in the grate. The cabin was unfamiliar to him—it certainly wasn't his father's cabin, but then again how could it be? His father's cabin was located in his office closet. No, Ray's closet seemed to contain a different cabin entirely, one he'd never seen before—

—except he suddenly noticed the dreamcatcher hanging in the window. It was the one he'd made for Ray, and he recognized his own weaving quite easily, as well as the distinctive colors of the eagle feather. It bore all the hallmarks of his workmanship—as, Fraser noticed a second later, did the bookcase on the far wall. Fraser had never built such a bookcase, but he knew that if he were to build one, it would look just like that, with those joins, that styling, that particular choice of sealing and stain. A moment later he recognized Ray's Navajo quilt, currently on the bed behind him, thrown carelessly over a comfortable looking armchair. And his own favorite boots, Fraser realized, the ones actually on his feet at the moment, were sitting on the hearth rug before the chair.

His chair. His and Ray's chair, he supposed. His and Ray's cabin that wasn't yet, but that was apparently someday to be. Ray's arms were still draped around him, and Fraser squeezed him tightly, grateful for this glimpse of life on the other side of the closet.

And as Ray kissed him hungrily and pulled him, stumbling, toward the unmade bed, Fraser felt a surge of unfamiliar and complicated emotions: of tenderness and passion mixed with hope.  

The End

Author's Note:  For the DS_Flashfiction "Footwear" challenge.

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